Over the past 48 hours this House has been joined in a fierce debate over proposals for media reform. The member for Wentworth has been strident in his attacks on these proposed reforms, and his defence of the principles of freedom of speech has been a spectacle to behold. I share his passion for a free, robust and independent media. I also understand the value of a right of reply. On 9 August 2006 the member used parliament to set the record straight on what he claimed to be a misrepresentation by the media. He said in this place:
I was misrepresented in a number of media outlets, including AAP, the Telegraph, the Australian and the Financial Review. It was attributed to me that I had said that petrol was not an issue in my electorate or that people were not complaining about petrol in my electorate.
He then used parliament to set the record straight.
As a parliamentarian, he is able to use the Australian parliament to respond to any allegation of misrepresentation by the media. This is a great privilege. Very few Australians enjoy the same privilege. That is why having an effective system for handling complaints of misrepresentation by the media, such as the Press Council and ACMA, is critical. All Australians have the right to have their complaint of misrepresentation dealt with in a fair and reasonable way, not just parliamentarians. We do not have this at present—hence the media reforms before the parliament.
I like to watch basketball, football and soccer. When I cannot get to a game, I like to watch it at home on television. Generally speaking, when I watch a game at home I like to do it with my family. But what offends me is that I can no longer do this without the incessant promotion of gambling—from the live odds to the game outcome to exotic bets on just about anything that goes on throughout the game, like the next try. I think I am in union with most average football fans when I say: enough is enough.
I am not against gambling. Next Sunday I will be attending the local racetrack with a lot of my friends and colleagues. When I do that, I will have a bet. I will probably be the same as the majority of other adults who walk through the gates next Sunday at Kembla Grange: we will be having a punt on the races. It would be a very rare adult who walked through the gates to go to the local racetrack who did not have a bet. But it is very different when we go to the football. It is not yet the case that the majority of people who go to the football have a bet on the outcome of the game. It is not yet part and parcel of the culture of going to the football. It is part and parcel of the culture of going to the races.
Since 1 July last year, 133,500 extra jobs have been created. That is almost 20 each hour. There have been 118,546 new companies registered. That is more than 20 every hour. Company share prices have grown strongly, with the S&P/ASX 200 index up 25 per cent. The economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent, and Australia has retained one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world, at 5.4 per cent. I understand that this is devastating news for those opposite, who hate good economic news. But it is good news for the people in my electorate and it is good news for Australia.
I listened with great interest to the member for Aston's contribution to this debate, because the debate has at its centre the policy to reduce carbon emissions. I should say that, if you are going to have a policy to reduce carbon emissions, it is not a bad starting point to actually believe that carbon emissions are having an impact on climate change. Many on that side of the House do not seem to believe that. I actually respect and listen very carefully to the member for Aston's contributions because I learn a lot from him. I particularly learned a lot from him when I read the article that he wrote in the Australian on 27 February 2007. Members sitting alongside the member for Aston might want to listen to what he had to say before he came to this place. He had this to say:
The collapse of Trio Capital was the largest superannuation fraud in Australian history. Around $176 million of superannuation funds were lost and are unlikely to be recovered. Nearly 6,090 Australians invested in Trio and, through Trio, into a number of managed investment schemes. Two hundred and eighty-five of those investors put their money in Trio through self-managed superannuation funds.
Self-managed superannuation funds are the largest single sector of Australia's $1.4 trillion superannuation assets and are the fastest-growing sector. Many of the 285 SMSF investors in Trio are located in the Illawarra and, over the course of the last two years—almost the entire time I have been in this place—the member for Cunningham and I have been meeting with and corresponding with the many men and women who have lost some or all of their life savings as a result of this corporate fraud. That is, 285 personal stories of severe financial shock and the ensuing personal devastation that flows from this.
On 12 November last year, the Prime Minister announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The announcement did not come out of thin air; it came, in part, as the conclusion of a long-running campaign by victims, by their advocates and by many others within the community to have such a national royal commission held.
As result of that, it was welcomed by victims, advocates, MPs and, I must say, even many church organisations. I welcome the establishment of a royal commission. I have believed for some time that this was the appropriate course of action for the Australian government to take. I do not rush quickly to the call for royal commissions. They have great investigative powers which, when combined with the constant scrutiny of the mass media, can alter the course of public opinion—and even personal reputation—well in advance of any findings and recommendations being recorded, and certainly well in advance of any prosecutorial process being concluded or even commenced.
I believe that royal commissions should only be used when it is clear that both policing and judicial determination have failed or are inadequate to the task. In relation to the question of institutional responses to child sexual abuse, I believe that this is such a case. Our children have had their trust betrayed. We have heard stories of child abusers being moved from place to place to avoid having their crimes dealt with. We have heard revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil. This royal commission process will, I hope, be a healing process. But I specifically hope that its recommendations will help ensure that it never happens again.
Many fine words have been said in tribute to former Speaker Joan Child; I would like to add my voice to those.
She has had a wonderful life story, an inspiration to many. She overcame adversity, as the member for Canberra has just outlined: raising five children as a single mum, finding time to get involved and interested in politics, being a part of the campaign that led Gough Whitlam to office, being elected herself and making a great contribution to her electorate, our party and to this parliament in being a role model for future women to come.
Indeed, it is because of the contribution of women like Joan Child that we subsequently, within the Labor Party, set up EMILY's List, to ensure that women like Joan Child are no longer an exception—a grand exception—but that they become the norm.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:41): When the Curtin government introduced benefits for unemployed people and sick people and other special benefits in 1943, it did so against the backdrop of the Great Depression, where hundreds of thousands of people were thrown out of jobs for many, many months—in some instances years. The poverty and social dislocation and the hardship to families that resulted from that ensured that, when proposals came before the Curtin government in 1943, they received a very favourable reception. Of course, we were not the only country in the world to be introducing such schemes. In the 1920s the United Kingdom had introduced such a scheme, and in the 1930s a scheme had been introduced in the United States as well. What tied them all together was the common view that the No. 1 priority for governments should be to try and provide meaningful work for their citizens and that the benefits should be sufficient to provide a decent standard of dignity while somebody was looking for work and looking after their family in the same instances.
That remains our priority today, and in Australia we are fortunate that there are now some 830,000 fewer people who are unemployed today than would have been had we not been elected to government in 2007—that is to say, we have created 830,000 new jobs in the Australian economy over that period. That should be our priority. In this country we have avoided the ravages of unemployment that have beset Europe, the United States and other similar economies around the world, because the government has done the right thing. We have spent where we have needed to spend to stimulate the economy, at the same time as looking after people who are in need.
We have not ignored the problems of those people on Newstart, as the member for Melbourne would like to suggest. Indeed, at one point recently a $1 billion income support bonus scheme was introduced, providing $210 extra per year for eligible singles and $350 per year for most couples to assist them to meet increasing costs of living. That said, job creation and job protection will always be our higher priority. For example, on this side of the House we do not think you do anything to aid job security by making it easier to sack someone. We believe the best form of job security is providing decent industrial relations laws and a strong economy to ensure that businesses continue to protect people.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:46): I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words in tribute to a constituent of mine, Kerry Murray, who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. Kerry was a stalwart of the Southern Highlands branch of the ALP, with more than 38 years continuous membership of the party. She focused her energy on her beloved family, her wide network of friends, her garden and actively campaigning in her community whenever a cause arose.
Kerry and her late husband, Fraser, were both teachers and they shared a passion for the power of education to transform young lives. At a time when dedicated services for women were close to non-existent, Kerry, an avowed feminist, advocated for women's health services, child care and many other causes close to home and nationally. Kerry was a Labor woman to her core, and the Labor Party was fortunate to have someone of her capacity and commitment in its midst.
According to her close friend and other mainstay of the Southern Highlands branch, Joan Yeo, Kerry gave one of her sons, Jim, the middle name of Edward as a tribute to her hero, Edward Gough Whitlam. On election days, Kerry would usually be found at the Mittagong Preschool booth, her favourite base for encouraging Labor votes in any election.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:59): I am pleased to be speaking today on the additional estimates bills, the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013. They are the bills which seek the authority from parliament for additional expenditure of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. They are also an opportunity for us to do a stocktake on the economic record of government, what it means for us in our local electorates, and where the challenges and threats are for ordinary Australian families when it comes to economic management in this country.
The total additional appropriation being sought through the bills before the House today is just over $1.27 billion. The total appropriation being sought in the first bill is approximately $600 million. This proposed appropriation arises from changes in the estimates of program expenditure, variation in the timing of payments, increases in forecast program take-up and policy decisions taken by the government in response to changed circumstances since the last budget. The major appropriations proposed in the bill come from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, which will receive an additional $85 million towards the support for the childcare assistance program to fund an increased demand for the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance Program. It is a good sign that there has been an increase in demand for this program. It means that there are more parents entering the workforce or entering training to assist them entering the workforce, and that is good for our economy. It is one of the reasons, when you compare the Australian unemployment rate to that around the world, we are at levels envied by just about every other country in the world. With all the turmoil going on in the international economy, unemployment rates below six per cent are nearly half that experienced in Europe and in the United States.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:48): Since the early 1980s there has been an almost bipartisan position in this parliament that Australia's best interests lay in being an open trading nation. It has been the reason that we can now purchase a TV set for less than we could 20 years ago. It is the reason that we now are able to purchase computers and all manner of other electronic goods for a fraction of what were able to 10 years ago.
It is the reason many Australian working families can afford to have multiple pairs of shoes for their children. When I was growing up if you had more than two pairs of shoes, you were considered to be a wealthy kid. The benefits of having open trade and being an open trading nation have not been without cost. It is absolutely true to say that an open and freer trading arrangement has also been a source of enormous dislocation and restructuring within our own economies, within our manufacturing industries and within our agricultural industries. It is also true to say that those changes have had greater impact on some regions than others. As a trading nation we understand that it is in the broad interest to engage with the rest of the world and enjoy the benefits of open trade.